‘Sexual Violence Hall of Shame’: Due diligence done, says response to ‘Kafila’ feminists

Raya Sarkar, an Indian lawyer based in the United States, put out a list on her Facebook page, naming and shaming academicians who have been accused of sexual harassment by students.

Published: 25th October 2017 11:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th October 2017 03:32 AM   |  A+A-

Image for representational purpose only

By Online Desk

After well-known feminists like Kavita Krishnan and Nivedita Menon put out a post asking lawyer Raya Sarkar to withdraw the post naming and shaming academicians accused of sexually harassing students (and sometimes colleagues), a response was posted.

READ HERE | Raya Sarkar interview: 'Professors accused of sexual harassment promising victims passage to Oxford'

The response, posted by Inji Pennu, a reporter for 'Global Voices', an international community of writers, bloggers and digital activists, tagging Raya Sarkar and others, acknowledged concerns raised by the women in a post on Kafila Online. Kafila Online is a team blog, among whose contributing members are Lawrence Liang, co-founder of the Alternative Law Forum in Bengaluru, who is also one of those named in the ‘Hall of Shame’ list of academicians.

In the post, Inji Pennu describes the due diligence that had been done before the names of the alleged sexual harassers were posted online.  The writer said the ‘Hall of Shame’ list was compiled from first-person accounts of the victims. Where the victim preferred to remain anonymous, a friend stood in, and evidence in the form of WhatsApp messages, call recordings, screenshots and emails had been collected and saved. 

The google document in which the names of the alleged sexual abusers have been compiled with details can be viewed here.

Inji Pennu’s post was in response to the statement on Kafila that the names had been put on social media without context, and that the names of those found guilty of sexual harassment had been banded together with several other names without any explanation given about them.

The Kafila statement claimed that the public naming and shaming of alleged sexual harassers would delegitimise the struggles against sexual harassment and make the task tougher for feminists.

Inji Pennu acknowledges that the victims could go back on their allegations, that they could face defamation suits, and that some of the allegations may not even lack legal standing in courts of law. She also addresses the fear that someone may have been wrongly accused on the list. She says, “If someone is ‘wrongly’ accused, out of vengeance, which of course can happen, would love to hear from them too.”

Here is the text of Inji Pennu’s Facebook post:

Dear Kafila feminists,

Glad for acknowledging the ‘Sexual Violence Hall of Shame’ list, Raya Sarkar has put together painstakingly. It is a little surprising when a million lists come up on Facebook regularly, there was an atypical rush to conjure up with a statement within hours. Even with all the interminable struggles against sexual violence you all have endured, it is marvelous, an ‘ethical’ position is taken.

To acknowledge the concerns you have raised, below are some of the ways how the list is updated:

* The list is put together as first-person accounts when women are coming forward to talk.

* If it is a victim who wants to be completely anonymous, then her friend stands alibi for the victim.

* ScreenShots of chats, Whatsapp messages, emails, call recordings are all collected in a folder for complete anonymity.

As you can see, these were not random data with no context. However it is worrisome that the victims can take a U-turn, there can be lawsuits against this accumulation of data, and possibly even lack legal standing at many of the gathered shreds of evidence.

But, enough!

We witnessed a sea of #metoo, a cycle of victimisation filling our streams. For all these #metoo, there are many #himtoo. Where are they?

Every day passes through these cycle of exasperating violence, the legal system is shattered and broken (not tilted), and the victims have no respite through law or the institute.

When the victims are harassed regularly, and until they died in the act, there is a shadow of doubt lingering above their heads, that they could have been an accomplice to the violence that was perpetrated towards them.

It is perturbing that the law has not caught up yet, that there cannot be any visible marks, but sexual crimes occur nevertheless.

There can be projects, Ph.D.’s, films, career, completely destructed because a woman didn’t let herself to be violated.

Every year as these crimes just pile up, victims falling into self-damaging depression, whimpering and withering away to silence.

It is not that as soon as a student joins a University, after long struggles of entrance exams, financial loans, that the professors just grab them the first day and rape them.

It is through constant intimidation, nurturing of the rape culture, peer pressure, verbal teasing, cultivating a so-called liberal atmosphere where a professor asking for sex is the norm, developing a camaraderie with other male professors and male students, they build this web slowly and carefully, where they have absolute power over the victim.

How do you collect evidence of such to present to the archaic legal system, that has no clue about sexual aggression?

In this lawless land where patriarchal aggression seeps through every pore of an institution, along with those non-existent sexual grievance committees, this is the first step, to break the taboo.
To vocalize, that even if it is your professor, even if it is your mentor, your teacher, your guru, your editor, your director, he is no God Almighty and he might be culpable of creating an atmosphere of sexual aggression and actively participating in it.

If someone is ‘wrongly’ accused, out of vengeance, which of course can happen, would love to hear from them too. Let us have the conversations started on why there are these many professors in this list, some universities are just teeming with it, some of them quite famous, even called in to write feminist discourses.

It is only fair and just that the accused be heard. But also would need to know, whether their silence also helped in nurturing a sexually aggressive environment, whether they came forward to help a student or employee, whether they reported to higher-ups, whether they ignored the law of not setting up a sexual grievance committee in their workplace. Whether they were complicit.

Fret not, for this is not a legal document, no one is even remotely capable of taking these powerful privileged upper caste men to the Court for any form of justice.

But rather think of this as a secret whisper list, of hundreds and hundreds of women, those witches they burned at the stakes, to be aware of the predators lurking around them. This is to let her know, she has some support system and her veins need not bleed in resistance.

This list is precisely for the new students, starting out, some of them are sisters and some of them our daughters to break the silence so that they can approach the legal system, of course with help from your privileged class and caste positions, your political connections, and strengthen the judicial process just like you all have envisioned.

This is an appeal to the Kafila feminists to bring those names forward, whom your students/peers have many times whispered to you, when you felt helpless, when the struggles ended without any resolution when you witnessed the victims falling into depression.

Please refresh your memory and let us join together to stop this cycle of violence which we owe to the new generation of feminists.

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